Today I will do a costume tour of Tyrol, or Tirol. This famous region in the Austrian Alps has a distinct costume tradition.
Tyrol as a political entity dates back to about 1140. It eventually became an integral part of Austria. After WWI, It was divided between the current State of Austria and Italy, as part of the general idea of the time that vanquished enemies must be punished. For the southernmost part of the old Duchy of Tyrol, which is called Trentino, this had some justification, because that region is overwhelmingly Italian in language and culture, but it was decided that the Italian border should be placed along the Continental divide, so that the Suedtirol, which is German speaking, was also given to Italy.
It is interesting that currently the two parts of Tyrol have formed a voluntary union which also includes Trentino.
Here is a map of the area, showing the Euroregion including Trent.
The Tyroleans live on both sides of the continental divide, as mountain people often do, and find their land divided by flatlanders who think that the mountains make a good place to put a border.
The Tyrol is bordered by Bavaria on the north, which speaks a similar dialect of Upper German, [Boarisch], Vorarlberg and Graubunden on the west, which both speak Allemanisch, Lombardy, Trentino and Veneto on the south, which speak various Italian dialects/languages along with some pockets of Ladin, and Carinthia and Salzburg on the east, which are also parts of Austria, and speak Upper German.
Here is a good physical map of the area. The costumes are not distinguished by municipal district, but by the valleys. I will provide more detailed maps where helpful. This map above may be expanded if needed, or open google maps and scroll around as you read. Here is another map with place names that might be useful.
The costume is broadly similar over this entire area, with details distinguishing the various valleys. The men wear long wool pants Hos, or leather knickers Lederhosen, a linen shirt Pfoat, a vest Weste, which is often red, Suspenders Kraxn, usually worn over the vest, a large belt Gurt, a jacket usually of loden Joppe, as well as stockings, shoes, and the hat typical of the valley. The men's jacket is one of the items which distinguish the differnent costumes. They are of various cuts and lengths, different colors, and have embroidery, ribbon, or applique, or not. They may be brown, green, blue, maroon, violet, red, or even yellow, depending on the valley.
The women, of course, have more variety, there usually being a formal costume, a festive costume, a winter costume, and an everyday work costume. I will focus on the summer festive costume for comparisons here. This includes a chemise Hemdl, a bodice Mieder, which often is laced closed over a plastron Brustlatz, a skirt Kittel, an apron Schurz, and often a jacket Joppe or Tschoap. The details of the trim and embroidery on the bodice are what mostly define the various costumes today.
Both sexes often wear a black silk neck scarf Flor.
Whereas in most places folk costumes are called Tracht, in this area they are more likely to be called G'wand, reflecting the local dialect. What is retained today in Tyrol is three historical layers of Gewand.
The old 'miedertracht', which basically dates from the Baroque, This is seldom worn, but is seen in illustrations and museums.This often has skirts cut so as to exaggerate the width of the hips, sometimes has a short waist, and often has stockings worn in rolls so as to exaggerate the thickness of the legs. The bodice is stiff, and has a wide opening, with a plastron. Here is one example from the Innsbruck area.
the 'spencertracht', which has its origins in the Biedermeier, which includes the dark leg of mutton sleeves. This seems to have been spread by the Pietism of the 19th cent. which valued simplicity, dark colors and modesty. Where this coexists with the bodice costume it is considered to be more formal. Here is an example from the Lower Inntal.
and the Erneuerter tracht, which is a modernization of the miedertracht, done in the 1930's. The lines have been modified for practicality and to please modern notions of beauty. The waist has been returned to the natural waist and the plastron has been narrowed. The extremely thick hips and legs are no longer part of the costume. Here is an example of a renovated gewand from Innsbruck as worn today.
Dirndls are a seperate thing. They are modern clothing which developed from the old everyday work costumes, and keep more or less the traditional cut. The colors, materials and details vary according to the desire of the wearer. They are worn, but are not considered to be true folk costumes.
I will proceed more or less from east to west. The east half is generally referred to as the Unterland [lowlands] and the western half as the Oberland [highlands].
Leukental or Großachental
This valley runs from the Thurn pass on the border with Salzburg state north through Kitzbuhel and St. Johann to the German border, following the Ache river. This is a minor river which does not connect with the Inn valley. The images show the formal costume, kassettl, with the long sleeves as well as the festive costume with the bodice. This is the costume which is featured at the head of the article.
This is often considered to extend from the German border up to about Jenbach.
The first image shows the formal costume of this area which has gradually become popular further up the valley and into some of the side valleys for weddings and other formal occasions. This costume is called 'Kassettl'.
Here is a somewhat less formal version.
The bodice costume is also found here
Just for example, here is the everyday costume from this area. These everyday summer costumes are what gave rise to the dirndl in the 20th century.
Just to give a more complete picture, here is the winter costume for this area.
Here are some photos.
Here is a video of an interview with a woman who specializes in sewing the Kassettl Gwand.
Brixental and Wildschönau
The Brixental joins the Inn valley near Wörgl and extends to the south and east towards Kitzbühel. Wildschönau is a side valley which extends to the west from Brixental.
This valley joins the Inn at Brixlegg, and runs to the southeast. The women's bodice is embroidered on both the front and the back.
This is a large valley which lies to the south of the Inn and joins the Inntal at Jenbach.
Their own version of the formal costume is still commonly worn. Here we see that there is a particular hat which is a signature of this valley. This is very common. The men's costume has a red vest which closes under the arm. The front of the vest has one to three rows of gallon around the neck opening. Kraxn are not worn. The Joppe is light gray.
Here is a video of a Riflemen's group from Zillertal on parade.
Here is a video of a musical group, The Young Zillertalers.
This is a small side valley which lies north of the Inntal, and also joins the Inn at Jenbach.
Here is an old print of this costume. Notice the similarities and the differences.
This Gwand is found roughly from Jenbach up to the town of Hall.
The Wipptal is a large valley which joins the Inn at Innsbruck. It extends south to the Brenner pass, and beyond, into South Tyrol, where at some point it becomes the upper Eisacktal. Again, note the distinctive hat. The loden joppe is burgundy or violet colored in this valley. In the first image, the woman is wearing a formal jacket, Schalk.
Sterzing and Pfitscher Tal
This town is in South Tyrol, south of the Brenner Pass, in what the Tyroleans consider to be the upper Wipptal. The Pfitscher Tal is a side valley which extends to the northeast from Sterzing [Vipiteno].
This is a side valley off the lower Wipptal at Schönberg which extends to the southwest. It lies completely within North Tyrol.
Innsbruck and Lower UpperInntal
This costume is found from around Innsbruck up the valley to Imst.
This is a side valley of the Inn, which extends to the south from just below Imst, west of Stubaital.
The men's joppe is distinguished by being embroidered on the front below the neck and on the cuffs, and no vest is worn. The women's bodice has a black upper part to the brustlatz with embroidery in a horizontal band.
This is the next side valley off the Inn as we head upstream. It joins the Inn valley at Arzl and extends to the south parallel to the Ötztal.
Leutaschtal, Seefeld, Scharnitz
This area lies north of the Inn valley about halfway between Innsbruck and Imst, where the Inn valley makes a bend and starts to head southwest, near the town of Telfs. The Leutasch valley runs north into Bavaria.
This river valley lies in northwestern Tyrol. The source of the river is in Vorarlberg, and flows through a corner of Tyrol before travelling north through western Bavaria. It does not connect with the Inn. The costume shows influence from both of these neighboring regions.
Here is a plate showing the old costume, which seems to have been revived.
Here are some images of the new costume, from the 1930's.
This is a side valley of the Lech, The head of which is in the extreme northwest corner of Tyrol, and joins the Lech at a point not far from the German border. Notice the embroidered linen Goller, which is more typical of Switzerland, and the Radhaube, the wheeled headress which is common around the Bodensee, but not found anywhere else in Tyrol.
This town is located on the lower Lech river, between the Tannheim Tal and the German border.
At Landeck, the Inn valley makes an S curve to the south and heads to the southwest into Graubunden. The Stanzer Tal extends directly west of Landeck into Vorarlberg. This area marks the westernmost extension of North Tyrol.
This valley meets the Stanzer Tal not far from its opening at Landeck, and extends to the southwest.
This includes the Inntal from just above Imst to the Swiss border.
In the westernmost part of North Tyrol, there is a low pass which leads from the Upper Inn valley, just east of the Swiss border, south into
This lies just south of the upper Inntal, and they are connected by a low pass. It is the valley of the upper Etsch River. The head of the valley is in the extreme northwest corner of South Tyrol. It heads south, and then east, and is considered to end in the vicinity of the city of Meran, where the river makes a sharp turn for the south.
The men's costume varies; in the west, in Upper Vintschgau, it resembles that of the Upper Inntal.
In the east, in lower Vintschgau, it resembles more the costume of Meran.
This gwand is from Graun, in the extreme upper part of the valley.
Meran and vicinity
The city of Meran lies at the point where the Etsch takes a sharp turn and heads south. There is a bodice costume miedergwand which is worn here. The Burggrafenamt, the formal costume is often worn here as well, see below.
This refers to the mid Etsch valley, basically between the cities of Meran and Bozen. The formal costume of this area is very popular for weddings over a wider area. This tracht shows definite city influence. This costume is also worn in Meran. The wide red lapels are a feature of this costume.
This is a valley which opens near Meran, and heads north.
This is a valley which opens on the Etsch river valley a short distance south of Meran and heads to the southwest. It lies to the south of Vintschgau. One unique characteristic is that sometimes the bun is covered with a hair net that has lace edging.
Bozen and vicinity
This is a large city which lies at the confluence of the Etsch and the Eisack rivers.
This is the region which lies south of the city of Bozen, and forms a triangular extension in the south center of South Tyrol. The name means 'The Upper Etsch Lowland'. Of course, this is Tyrol, and 'lowland' is relative. The bodice is light green with pale red silk borders, and black velvet ribbon which is hand embroidered in a floral pattern. The brustlatz also has floral embroidery.
This is a valley which opens near the city of Bozen and heads north, between the two major river valleys of the Etsch and the Eisack. It is reached by passing through a narrow gorge, and so is relatively isolated.
There are two costume traditions in this valley. The old one is very rich and colorful, and resembles the gwand which is found further east, in Eisacktal and Pustertal. In about 1850 the 'new costume' was introduced, and by the early 20th cent completely replaced the old, although most people still have them in their attics. There is now a movement to revive this costume. In the old costume unmarried men wore red jackets, and married men wore brown or black jackets.
The 'new costume' is simple, dark, and sober, in keeping with the Pietistic ideals of the 19th cent. It is still a living tradition in the Sarntal. The new costume features black leather kraxn with feather embroidery.
This is a plateau which lies between the Sarntal and the Eisacktal, to the northeast of the city of Bozen, and southeast of the Sarntal. The costume resembles that of the Eisacktal.
This is a valley which extends to the southeast from the Eisack valley and opens just north of the city of Bozen. The men wear jackets of a light moss green which can even shade into yellow. The jacket may be short or long, and is bordered in a dark green.
Kastelruth & Groedner Tal
Kastelruth lies east of the Eisack valley, and leads east to the Groedner Tal, or Val Gardena, where the people speak Ladin. The costume is similar, but the Ladin people add extra items to the costume, like the festive crown, separate linen collar and metal belt for the girls. The German speaking people of Kastelruth wear a more sober form of the same costume.
This is the mid Eisack river valley around Klausener, Villanders and Latzfons. The men's jacket of Latzfons is distinguished by embroidery on the front.
This lies in the Eisacktal where it is joined by the Pustertal. Above this, the high Eisacktall is considered to be the upper Wipptal.
The Pustertal with its side valleys takes up the eastern part of South Tyrol. The large side valley on the south is Val Badia, which borders Val Gardena, and is also inhabited by Ladin speakers. The Ladin influence is also visible in this costume. You will notice that in the eastern part of this valley, another river rises and flows east. This is the Drava, which flows through East Tyrol, and eventually into Croatia.
Pustertal-East Tyrol Transitional area
This costume is found from Innichen east into East Tyrol by Lienz in the Drava river valley.
This area also has its version of the new, or formal costume, which in this area is called Bäuerisches Gwand for the women, and Osttiroler Anzug for the men. This is similar to other names for this costume around Tyrol, and comes from the word for farmer, and not from Bavaria.
Villgratental is a side valley which lies north of the Drava just east of the border of South Tyrol with East Tyrol.
This is the main city of East Tyrol, and is found on the Drava river near the eastern edge of Tyrol
The Isel valley heads north from the city of Lienz.
This is a side valley of the Isel, and runs to the west, parallel to and north of the Drava. The women's bodice is distinguished by horizontal rows of floral embroidery on the brustlatz.
Thus we come to the end of Tyrol. I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. The culture of Tyrol is rich and fascinating. I hope that you felt that it was worth devoting such a long article to it.
Here is a short video about sewing Tyrolean tracht and dirndls.
Nina Gockerell & Helene Kostenzer, 'Alte Trachten aus Oberbayern & Tirol, Munich, 1976
Albert Kretschmer, 'Das Grosse Buch der Volkstrachten', Basel,1977 reprint of 1887 original
Gertrud Pesendorfer & Grete Karasek,'Tirol : Neue Deutsche Bauerntrachten', Munich, 1938
Gertrud Pesendorfer, 'Lebendige Tracht in Tirol', Innsbruck, 1966
Uta Radakoich, 'Costumi Tradizionali dell'Alto Adige/Suedtirol', Trent, 2009
Maria Rehm, 'Oesterreichs Trachtenbuechlein', Innsbruck, 1981
Josef Ringler, 'Tiroler Trachten', Innsbruck, 1961
Petra Streng, 'Echt Tirol Trachten', Innsbruck, 2006
Hans Von Hammerstein, 'Trachten der Alpenlander', Vienna, 1937
'Die Sarner Tracht: Bairisch gien', Bozen, 2011